The Memphis Grizzlies are a professional basketball team based in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. They are part of the Southwest Division of the Western Conference in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Along with the Toronto Raptors, the Grizzlies were established in 1995 as part of the NBA’s expansion into Canada. The team originated that year in Vancouver, British Columbia and relocated to Memphis in 2001.
The team’s majority owner is Michael Heisley, who controls a 95% share of the franchise; the remaining 5% is controlled by several local owners, including AutoZone founder J. R. (“Pitt”) Hyde, his wife Barbara Hyde, equity manager Staley Cates, and former NBA player and University of Memphis point guard Elliot Perry.
While two other teams in the four major North American sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) play in Tennessee, the Grizzlies are the only team to currently play in Memphis.
The Grizzlies and Charlotte Hornets both applied with the NBA to relocate to Memphis on the same day, March 26, 2001. The Grizzlies’ request was granted by the NBA. Memphis became the furthest city to the East among other cities of the Western teams. By the time the Grizzlies relocated to Memphis, FedEx hoped the team would change its name to the Memphis Express. The NBA quickly quashed that idea, ruling that they would not allow teams to be named for corporations.
Although the Hornets failed in their quest to move to Memphis, they relocated from Charlotte to New Orleans before the start of the 2002-03 NBA season.
In the 2001 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks drafted Pau Gasol as the 3rd overall pick, who was traded to the Grizzlies. After the Grizzlies’ first season in Memphis, Gasol won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. The Grizzlies also drafted Shane Battier, who quickly became an unofficial spokesman for the team and a fan favorite. However, despite the strong draft class, general manager Billy Knight was let go.
After Billy Knight’s departure and the 2001/02 season, the team hired former Los Angeles Laker and Hall of Famer Jerry West as general manager in 2002, who later received the 2003/04 NBA Executive of the Year Award. After West’s arrival the team was changed a great deal from Knight’s team, with the removal of Sidney Lowe as head coach after a dismal 0/8 start to the season and a great deal of player movement with players such as Mike Miller and James Posey becoming vital to the team’s success. During the 2002/03 season, Hubie Brown was hired to coach the Grizzlies.
Brown won the NBA Coach of the Year Award during the next season when the Grizzlies made the NBA playoffs for the first time in team history in the spring of 2004 as the sixth seed in the Western Conference in a drastic change from being perennially one of the worst teams in the NBA.
However, Hubie Brown stepped down as head coach during the 2004/05 season. At the time of his resignation, the Grizzlies had a losing record but West was able to hire TNT analyst and former coach Mike Fratello to replace Brown. The Grizzlies’ record markedly improved and the team advanced to the postseason for the second consecutive season. However, upon reaching the playoffs, the Grizzlies were once again swept out in the first round, this time by the Phoenix Suns.
After this season, which ended tumultuously with anger between Fratello and many of the players, namely Bonzi Wells and Jason Williams, the team had an active 2005 offseason in which they revamped the team and added veteran talent. While the Grizzlies lost Bonzi Wells, Jason Williams, Stromile Swift, and James Posey, they acquired Damon Stoudamire, Bobby Jackson, Hakim Warrick, and Eddie Jones. They made the playoffs for the third consecutive year as well.
With their record they owned the fifth playoff seed in the Western Conference and would have to face the Dallas Mavericks, who swept the Grizzlies in 4 games. The Grizzlies have the longest losing streak in the NBA playoffs with 12 losses: three consecutive years in which the Grizzlies have not won a playoff series, or even a single game, and they have remained winless in the playoffs during their short franchise history.
On September 9, 2009 , the Grizzlies Signed free agent Allen Iverson to a single year, $ 3.5 million deal. Iverson had been the subject of some controversy due to the nature of his previous season with the Detroit Pistons, though he stated that he was excited about helping the team, and believed “God chose Memphis as the place that I will continue my career.” However, he only played in three games (none of them in Memphis) before leaving for “personal problems.” He was then waived by the Grizzlies.
Following Iverson’s departure, the Grizzlies gradually improved. With new acquisition Zach Randolph playing at an all-star level, Marc Gasol’s improvement and a commitment to defense, the Grizzlies were in playoff contention for much of the season, before finishing 10th in the West with a 40-42 record.
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